Contact Dermatitis is a type of rash that occurs when the skin comes in contact with an allergen or irritant. The rash typically appears red, itchy or tender. It’s important to know that contact dermatitis is not contagious or life-threatening. However, it can be very uncomfortable so it’s important to consult a dermatologist who can help identify the cause and manage your symptoms.

Types of Contact Dermatitis

There are three types of contact dermatitis:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis: This type involves an immune system response when you come into contact with an allergen like poison ivy or latex.
  • Irritant contact dermatitis: Irritant contact dermatitis is the most common type and occurs when your skin comes in contact with a toxic material like some household cleaning chemicals.
  • Photocontact dermatitis: The least common type of contact dermatitis–photocontact dermatitis occurs when the active ingredients in a skin product are exposed to the sun.

The Cause of Contact Dermatitis

There is no single cause for contact dermatitis, and the cause(s) are unique to each individual.  The most common triggers for each type for each type of contact dermatitis are as follows:

For allergic contact dermatitis:

  • Poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac
  • Nickel or gold (commonly found in jewelry)
  • Latex (gloves)
  • Fragrance in perfumes, cosmetics or skincare products
  • Medications (such as antibiotics)

For irritant contact dermatitis:

  • Bleach
  • Battery acid
  • Drain cleaners
  • Hydraulic fluid
  • Kerosene
  • Laundry detergents
  • Soap

For photocontact dermatitis:

  • Sunscreen
  • Tar products
  • Fragrance in perfumes, cosmetics or skincare products
  • Insecticides
  • Disinfectants

Signs You May Be Experiencing Contact Dermatitis

The symptoms can vary depending on the type of contact dermatitis and the way in which your individual body responds. They typically appear within minutes or up to hours after exposure and may last for 2-4 weeks. The most common symptoms include:

  • Dry, scaly, and/or flaky skin
  • Hives
  • Blisters
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Sensitivity to sun
  • Cracking
  • Open sores
  • Changes in pigmentation
  • Skin tightness
  • Swelling/inflammation

When You Should See a Physician

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and suspect you are experiencing contact dermatitis you should immediately wash the affected area with warm water and mild soap to remove any allergens or irritants. If symptoms do not improve after a few days or are near your lungs, eyes, mouth or nasal passage, you should seek immediate attention from a medical professional.

Fever or oozing blisters are signs you may have an infection, so it’s important to seek treatment quickly to prevent spreading.

How is Contact Dermatitis Treated?

At-home treatments that may help relieve symptoms include oral antihistamines such as Benadryl or a cold compress.

Depending on the severity, a physician may prescribe an oral or topical steroid in addition to an antihistamine. To identify what is causing your reaction so that you can avoid future contact, he or she may conduct a skin test or keep a journal of any products that your skin comes into contact with over a period of time.

Contact Blue Ridge Dermatology Today

If you are suffering from chronic or prolonged contact dermatitis, contact Blue Ridge Dermatology today to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists. Our team will work to identify the cause of your reaction and help relieve your symptoms.